Impairments in phonological processing and nonverbal intellectual function in parents of children with autism

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2008 Jul;30(5):557-67. doi: 10.1080/13803390701551225.


Language difficulties have been implicated to be a part of the broad autism phenotype in first-degree relatives of individuals with autism. Phonological processing difficulties in particular have been reported by some, but not all groups studying parents or siblings of probands with autism. In the present study, we examined a broad battery of language tasks and general cognitive abilities in parents of children with autistic disorder. Parents of individuals with autism (n = 22) were compared to matched adult controls on a series of cognitive and language measures. Parents of children with autism exhibited lower performance on the matrix reasoning subtest and total performance IQ than did controls, but did not show differences in verbal IQ measures, when tested with the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI). In addition, parents of children with autism had lower performance on a nonword repetition task, but did not show differences on tests of figurative language, receptive language, expressive language, and verbal fluency and on a questionnaire assessing history of reading difficulties. Results from this study are generally consistent with the cognitive profiles reported for parents of children with autism. Our finding of nonword repetition difficulties, along with others' previous findings for nonword reading in autism families, suggests that problems in phonological processing might be characteristic of the broad autism phenotype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / genetics*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / genetics
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Humans
  • Intelligence / genetics*
  • Language Disorders / diagnosis
  • Language Disorders / genetics*
  • Language Disorders / psychology
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Phenotype
  • Phonetics*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reference Values
  • Semantics
  • Speech Production Measurement / statistics & numerical data
  • Wechsler Scales / statistics & numerical data